All human beings, no matter how young or how old, need attention. It doesn’t mean they are self-centered – just that they are human. We all need to see ourselves as special. We all need to know others like who we are.
The messages you give your children that tell them they are special and that you like who they are give them the attention they are so much in need of. Those kinds of messages – both words and actions – can be thought of as “money in the bank.” They are big doses of attention that children can hold onto until they need them. When they have lots of these to draw on when things are difficult, misbehavior can be reduced because they are less likely to use misbehavior just to seek the attention they so much need.